Whole Earth Access

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Whole Earth Access
Private subsidiary
Fate Shuttered
Founded Berkeley, California (1969)
Defunct 1998
Headquarters 2950 7th Street, Berkeley, California 94710 U.S.

The Whole Earth Access (1969 - 1998) started as a countercultural retail store in Berkeley, California. In the early 1990s, Whole Earth Access had 7 stores in Northern California. After filing for bankruptcy in 1996, all stores closed in 1998.


The Whole Earth Catalog was preceded by the "Whole Earth Truck Store", a 1963 Dodge truck. In 1968, the "Truck Store" finally settled into its permanent location in Menlo Park, California.

In 1969, a store which was inspired by (but not financially connected with) The Whole Earth Catalog, called the Whole Earth Access opened in Berkeley, California. The store had the Leopold's Records Teletype Model 33 ASR which connected to the Community Memory Project SDS 940[1][2][3][4][5][6] [7]

In 1978, two brothers, Larry and Gene Farb, bought the Berkeley store on Shattuck avenue.[8] The first store, located in an industrial area of Berkeley, sold various brand names sought after by young affluents at a discounted price. Salespersons were technology-savvy and knowledgeable of their products. Gene Farb managed electronics and photographic merchandise, Larry Farb[9] managed hardware and appliances, Laura Katz (Larry's wife) ran the housewares and clothing departments, and Toni Garrett (Gene's wife) handled book sales and mail order.[10] The store also built some of the computers it was selling,[11] The second store opened in Marin county in 1982, and the third in San Francisco in 1985.[10]

According to a 1985 issue of the store's Whole Earth Access Mail Order Catalog, (named after, but not connected to The Whole Earth Catalog which it also sold):

Our Berkeley store opened in 1969, inspired by but independent of The Whole Earth Catalog. It began by carrying books, a few woodstoves, a few power tools, and back-to-the-land equipment. Access to a wide variety of products was available at very low prices through special ordering from distributors' catalogs. Gradually the store began stocking the items most commonly ordered, and we now carry a wide range of top-quality products for basic living, still at very low prices. Our newest section is electronics and communications, which includes cameras, video, audio, and computers.[9]

Larry Farb commented in 1986 to the Los Angeles Times that, "we've grown up with our customers [...] the person who bought wood stoves in the '70s is buying cappuccino makers today."[10]

In the early 1990s, the company opened 4 more stores in Northern California, contracting debts to finance the expansion. In 1992, its sales peaked to $180 million.[8]

In 1995, the San Jose and Concord stores were closed.[12] In 1996, Basic Living Products, the parent company of Whole Earth Access, closed the Foster City and Sacramento stores, and filed for bankruptcy protection.[13][8][14][15]

In November 1998, the three first and last stores of Whole Earth Access (Berkeley, San Rafael, San Francisco) went out of business.[16]

Co-founder Gene Farb died 3 years later, in 2001.[11]


  1. ^ Community Memory Project, 1972-74 at The WELL
  2. ^ https://www.well.com/~szpak/cm/cm-2-Leopolds.jpg
  3. ^ https://www.well.com/~szpak/cm/cm-6-walkthru.jpg
  4. ^ https://www.well.com/~szpak/cm/cm-7-walkthru.jpg
  5. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Remembering-Community-Memory-The-Berkeley-2842143.php
  6. ^ http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/community-memory-precedents-in-social-media-and-movements/
  7. ^ Andrew O'Heir (18 August 2016). "Patty Hearst's America: What "American Heiress" gets wrong (and right) about an insane time and place". Salon.com. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c "Whole Earth Access files for Chapter 11". San Francisco Chronicle. May 2, 1996. 
  9. ^ a b Whole Earth Access Mail Order Catalog: Access to quality products for good living at the lowest possible prices. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 1985. p. Inside front cover. ISBN 0898151325. OCLC 12234855. 
  10. ^ a b c Zonana, Victor F. (May 19, 1986). "One of Fastest-Growing Chains in U.S. : Whole Earth Access Stores Are 'Bargain Basement' for Yuppies". Los Angeles Times. pp. E1–E2. 
  11. ^ a b "Gene Farb, founder of Whole Earth chain". Sfgate.com. 21 June 2001. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  12. ^ "Whole Earth Access shutting two outlets". Sfgate.com. 24 July 1995. Retrieved 9 September 2016. 
  13. ^ Emert, Carol (November 11, 1998). "Whole Earth Closing Last 3 Stores". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  14. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Earth-s-Mother-Exits-Chapter-11-2849665.php
  15. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/BAY-AREA-TOP-100-3123436.php
  16. ^ "Whole Earth Access says it's closing all stores". San Francisco Business Times. November 11, 1998. 

External links[edit]